We’ll look at the plea deal for a Trump Organization loyalist who could have been sentenced to 15 years in jail. We’ll also hear from a violinist from Ukraine who cherished time in Manhattan before a couple of concerts.
Credit…Pool photo by Seth Wenig/EPA, via Shutterstock
Allen Weisselberg’s ex-wife once said that he and Donald Trump were like Batman and Robin. Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, compared them to Frick and Frack, while a former Trump executive called Weisselberg an unquestionably loyal “soldier” who was “good at doing what Donald wanted him to do.”
Today Weisselberg is expected to plead guilty in a tax scheme involving the Trump Organization, where he was a top executive for years. Prosecutors said he did not report perks like leased Mercedes-Benzes, rent on an apartment on the Upper West Side and private school tuition for his grandchildren — perks that were tracked on spreadsheets within the Trump Organization.
The plea deal that Weisselberg’s lawyers agreed to will not require him to cooperate with the Manhattan district attorney’s office on its investigation of the former president, who has not been accused of wrongdoing.
But it will require him to testify at the company’s trial in the fall, according to people with knowledge of the matter. That would put the company at a disadvantage because it will face many of the same charges that Weisselberg is acknowledging. Even though Weisselberg is not expected to implicate the Trumps, his testimony would lend credence to the allegations, undercutting the company’s lawyers’ efforts to claim that no crime was committed.
Weisselberg’s plea negotiations became known last week after a judge declined to throw out the criminal case against Weisselberg and the Trump Organization. The New York Times reported on Monday that his lawyers and prosecutors were close to an agreement on it, and CNN reported Wednesday that he had agreed to testify at the Trump Organization’s trial. His lawyers, Nicholas Gravante Jr. and Mary Mulligan, declined to comment, as did a spokeswoman for the Manhattan district attorney’s office, which sought the indictments.
Under the plea deal, Weisselberg must acknowledge 15 felonies that he was charged with in an indictment made public last year. Weisselberg was accused of participating in a scheme to provide Trump Organization executives with off-the-books perks. Weisselberg himself avoided paying taxes on $1.76 million of income over the last 15 years, the prosecutors said.
Prosecutors had hoped they could press Weisselberg to take the stand against Trump. But Weisselberg refused to sit down with them even as his lawyers worked out the potential plea deal, the people with knowledge of the matter said. The prosecutors had essentially accused him of conspiring with the Trump Organization, which he will have to acknowledge at the hearing today.
Weisselberg’s willingness to plead guilty and go to prison points to his allegiance to the Trumps, for whom he worked for almost 50 years. At the company’s trial in the fall, Trump’s lawyers could assert that Weisselberg accepted the plea to avoid a harsher sentence. Weisselberg could have faced up to 15 years in prison plus financial penalties if he had been convicted by a jury. Instead, he is expected to be sentenced to five months in jail under the plea deal. With time credited for good behavior, he is likely to spend about 100 days behind bars.
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For a Ukrainian musician, New York is peaceful
Outside a coffee shop on Tenth Avenue, the light turned from red to green, and a pair of eighteen-wheelers roared off at full volume. Inside, Julia Tokach was explaining why she had found a sense of peace in her first 18 hours in New York.
There were no sirens, she said. No air-raid sirens.
Tokach is a violinist from Ukraine. During the six months of war with Russia, air-raid sirens have become as much a part of life in Ukraine as ambulance or police sirens in Manhattan. Practicing and rehearsing are “hard to do when every second you could have to go off to a bomb shelter,” she said.
Tokach played in concerts for Ukrainian soldiers after the invasion began, and in June she joined the Ukrainian Freedom Orchestra, an ensemble of 74 musicians that is on a 12-city international tour. It has concerts scheduled tonight and tomorrow in Damrosch Park at Lincoln Center. The orchestra arrived on Tuesday, and Tokach immediately felt comfortable in Manhattan.
“There’s not the feeling of fear” that there is in Ukraine, she said.
Tokach and Roxolana Dubova, a violist in the orchestra, learned what it was like to be something of a celebrity: On a walk in Central Park, they were recognized by their T-shirts, which have the orchestra’s name on the front and the concert schedule on the back. “People said, ‘Turn around, we want to see when you’re playing,’” Tokach said.
The cityscape felt familiar, Tokach said. She had learned her way around New York from movies — she and Dubova recognized places in the park from “Home Alone 2: Lost in New York.”
Tokach said she wanted to see the Waldorf Astoria, not because the songwriter Cole Porter lived there, and later Frank Sinatra. She remembered the Waldorf from the 2001 romantic comedy “Serendipity,” which starred Kate Beckinsale and John Cusack. (She could not stroll in for a look — not on this trip to New York, anyway. The Waldorf has been closed renovations since 2017.)
As the war grinds on, the musicians have sometimes struggled to keep their minds on their music. Tokach said she has begun each day by checking for news of the fighting at home.
“We understand we have to go back,” she said. “We just enjoy this moment.”
I was waiting for a cab to take me from an urgent care clinic near Lincoln Square to a nearby emergency room. I had fallen the night before while leaving the theater, smashing my knee and face on the sidewalk.
After an interminable wait, I spotted a lone cab stopped at a red light. The driver indicated that he would pick me up as soon as the light changed.
Then, in a clear breach of taxi etiquette, a man who was maybe 20 years younger than I am jumped into the street ahead of me. He saw me and must have realized I was waiting for the cab. He obviously didn’t care because when the light turned green, he hopped in brazenly.
I was angry. Then the unthinkable happened.
The cab approached me, the taxi thief opened the door, asked where I was going, invited me in, waited as I hobbled aboard and told the driver to take me where I was going, which was a few avenues out of this man’s way.
He told me he was late for a doctor’s appointment and asked how I had gotten hurt.
I said I had fallen after leaving the theater. He asked if I worked in theater and said that his wife did.
When we got to the emergency room, he wouldn’t accept any money for the ride and asked just one thing in return: He wanted me to tell his wife what I had told him: that he was the nicest person to ever steal a cab from me.
“She needs proof sometimes that I’m nice,” he said.
I didn’t get his name or his wife’s, but hopefully she will read this.
— Gwen Marcus
Illustrated by Agnes Lee. Send submissions here and read more Metropolitan Diary here.
Glad we could get together here. See you tomorrow. — J.B.
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Melissa Guerrero and Ed Shanahan contributed to New York Today. You can reach the team at [email protected].